Is beer the new wine? With more selection to choose from than ever before and plenty of high-quality brews at drinkers’ disposal, beer has become a lot more than just something to swill during the game. As the craft beer market heats up, beer drinking is getting a lot more sophisticated, and smart restaurateurs are taking advantage.

The biggest trend this year in beer has been the boom in breweries: with over 6,000 microbreweries operating nationwide, the craft brewery boom seems unstoppable. In fact, as one industry publication noted, Vermont now has 11.7 breweries for every 10,000 residents. By comparison, the Green Mountain State boasts just 0.064 Starbucks per capita. That means small-batch beer is the brew of choice for many Americans.

Fruity IPAs, session beers, cask-ripened ales—the list of options goes on and on. Here’s how you can use that variety selection to your advantage and offer some creative beer selections at your restaurant.

 

Curate Your Beer List

According to beer industry experts, consumers have grown fatigued with the dizzying volume of craft beer selections. Craft beer producers brewed over 25 million barrels in 2017, so there was indeed a lot to choose from. Today’s beer enthusiasts may appreciate an eatery with a smaller, more select beer menu. A collection of small-batch standards with a small rotation of seasonal favorites may do more to woo beer lovers than a beer list that’s six pages long.

 

Go Local

Local is everything right now, and that goes for breweries too. Local breweries have actually proved somewhat more robust in 2018 than larger craft beer producers, and that trend looks to continue in the next year. That means if you have a restaurant, there’s a great opportunity to partner with nearby breweries and provide select brews to your customers. With competition heating up in the craft beer market, breweries may be more than happy to secure an exclusive distribution channel at your eatery.

 

Rotate Seasonal Selections

Regardless of how much you appreciate a good stout, you probably don’t want to drink one in the middle of a heat wave. We suggest you feature a handful of seasonal beers that you rotate throughout the year. Choose spicy, dark beers or lagers for cold weather and fruity flavors, IPAs, sours, and Belgium-style beers for summertime weather. There’s nothing better than the right beer on a hot day!

 

Create Tasting Menus

With more and more flavors and varieties to choose from, sometimes it’s hard to try everything—unless you’re willing to suffer for it the next day. That’s the thinking behind beer flights, a sort of wine tasting for the beer-drinking crowd. Create a flight menu featuring a smaller pour of some of your most popular beers, and include a selection of appetizers to match each flavor profile. Some food experts have even suggested that beer makes a better pairing for cheese than wine, so a well-curated cheese plate might be a real winner here.

 

Showcase Competition Winners

Unless you have a beer aficionado on staff, you may find it challenging to stay on top of beer trends. An easy way to deal with this is to select beers based on the latest competition winners. The Brewers Association’s World Beer Cup, U.S. Open Beer Championships, and the New York International Beer Competition all offer plenty of choices to fill up your bar menu.

 

Stay on Top of Regulars’ Tastes

There’s one authoritative way to keep tabs on your customers’ beer tastes: look at the data. With a sophisticated POS system, you can track beer sales over time to see which beers customers like best. Use sales reports to see how new beers are faring—and decide when it’s time to retire old selections. After all, if your customers don’t like it, it doesn’t matter what the beer experts are saying!

 

With these tips, you’ll be able to drive beverage sales and draw beer-lovers to your restaurant. We’ll drink to that!